By Lisa Ferdinando DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, September 2, 2015 — The work of private organizations is critical in supporting the nation's veterans and their families, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today during the 2015 Newman's Own Awards ceremony at the Pentagon.
Taking care of service members and their families is "such an incredibly large task that it really does take an extraordinary public-private partnership," Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said during the event, in which five organizations each received a grant of $30,000, and one organization was gifted $50,000.
The awards are sponsored by Newman's Own, Fisher House Foundation, and Military Times.
The support from private groups is so important for veterans and their families because commitments of the military are going up, while budgets are shrinking, the chairman said. "We're just going to have to help each other as Americans," Dempsey added.
The effort, he said, is to make sure "we not only get the job done," but also that public-private partnerships continue to exist to help the men and women who have served.
"America's sons and daughters who keep raising their right hand even though they know exactly what they are getting into" are one of the great blessings of the United States, Dempsey told the groups being recognized, adding that they are a blessing to the nation as well.
The needs of veterans and their families often exist in the "cracks and the seams" of services that already exist, said Jeffrey Smith, vice president of operations at Newman's Own. The organizations being recognized "captured the spirit of what we mean and why we go about all profits for charity," he said.
Foundations Provide Funds for Grants
Newman's Own, founded by the late actor Paul Newman, donates all profits and royalties from its food products to Newman's Own Foundation, which supports charities around the world. The Fisher House matches the grants, bringing the total to $200,000 being awarded annually, according to Ken Fisher, Fisher House Foundation’s chairman and CEO.
"These awards are given to small organizations with big hearts at the grassroots level that are doing so many things to help our military, our veterans and their families," Fisher said.
Since the annual awards competition began in 1999, more than $1 million in grants have been awarded, he said.
"The Newman's Own program epitomizes the strong belief I have that no one entity -- be it [the Defense Department, the Veterans Affairs Department] or the Fisher House Foundation itself -- can meet all the needs of our military veterans and their families," Fisher said. "It takes a team of dedicated, patriotic and caring people."
Dana Katz accepted the $50,000 award on behalf of UCLA Operation Mend, a public-private partnership that connects military resources with surgical and medical specialists to help wounded post-9/11 service members.
"It is our deep honor to take care of these men and women who we serve and their families. They come to us and they spend a lot of time with us and we love them," she said. "We really need each other to do this work."
Katz’s mother-in-law and father-in-law started the group in 2007. The idea was born after her in-laws visited the burn unit at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas. Katz said they thought about "what we should be doing as private citizens to make a difference in the lives of these men and women who've done so much for us."
Katz said she was grateful to be at the ceremony at the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes, a room where the names of all the Medal of Honor of recipients are listed.
"I had no idea what it would feel like to be here in this place with this group of people receiving this kind of award on behalf of Operation Mend," she said.
The organizations that received $30,000 each were:
Zero Day Innovation Center, Zero Day Inc., Dewitt, Michigan
Zero Day provides training and support services for veterans toward their attainment of a self-sufficient and independent lifestyle, including a plan for life’s basic needs including employment, housing, transportation and health care. It provides services and training including accredited vocational training, life skills mentoring, and licensed therapy support.
Adaptive Vans Award Program, Helping Our Military Heroes, Easton, Connecticut
Help our Military Heroes provides fully equipped, adaptive minivans to the country’s most severely wounded, injured, and ill service men and women who suffered their injuries while on active duty since the Iraq and Afghanistan wars began.
Kids’ Club, Southwestern Illinois College Foundation, Belleville, Illinois
Recognizing that veterans’ benefits may not be sufficient to cover child care costs for nontraditional students, Southwestern Illinois College and Kids’ Club will provide free child care services for military parents who are enrolled in college. There are also family events and access to free tutoring.
Tech for Troops Project, Richmond, Virginia
Tech For Troops Project provides refurbished computers to veterans, enabling them to connect with employers and develop critical computer skills. Veterans receive free computers through other local nonprofit organizations that partner with Tech For Troops Project in central Virginia. Tech For Troops Project hires veteran to support the growing demand of recipients and provides technical training to local veterans.
A Home for Healing, Warriors and Quiet Waters Foundation, Bozeman, Montana
Warriors and Quiet Waters Foundation serves the nation's traumatically combat-injured from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and active service members experiencing challenges with mental health, relationships, transitioning to civilian life, post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries.